3 Way Switch Testing and Issues

Reply

  #1  
Old 08-18-17, 12:19 PM
B
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 5
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
3 Way Switch Testing and Issues

I'm a bit stumped and hoping someone can point me in the right direction.

We have 6 can lights in our kitchen controlled by 2 3-way switches (one on each side of the kitchen). The other day, during a storm, our lights stopped working. The last time this happened one of our switches was bad. We replaced it and things started working again. This time, not so much.

I've labeled my common and traveler wires this time so I know I am wiring correctly. I initially planned to replace both switches but it has not worked.

However, the lights did come on for a day or so with one switch working properly (it could turn lights on/off) but the other new switch did not. Then today, I heard a small crackle (with the lights on, but could not tell if it came from the switch or from the box) and the lights went out again.

The first thing I'm attempting to do it test power. When I touch any of the three wires to ground (common and two travelers) I show power. This is on the switch where the hot wire comes in. I would think that only one of the two travelers should show power, depending on switch position. Am I understanding this wrong?

Finally, any thoughts as to why it would work again, and then suddenly go out? Should I suspect the new switch of being faulty?

Thanks for any feedback or help.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 08-18-17, 12:27 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,583
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
I'm attempting to do it test power. When I touch any of the three wires to ground (common and two travelers) I show power.
Sounds like a non contact tester. A non contact tester can not be used for real testing. Power in will be a 2-conductor cable (black, white) not a 3-conductor cable (black, red, white). Power in can be at one of the switches or the light.
 
  #3  
Old 08-18-17, 12:31 PM
B
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 5
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Not a non-contact. I'm touching one lead to ground, the other to the three wires (common, 2 travelers).
 
  #4  
Old 08-18-17, 12:40 PM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 33,583
Received 13 Votes on 11 Posts
I'm touching one lead to ground, the other to the three wires (common, 2 travelers).
Hot is not the 3-conductor cable. It is a 2-conductor cable. Do you have a 2-conductor cable in either switch box?
 
  #5  
Old 08-18-17, 12:54 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 15,173
Received 91 Votes on 78 Posts
The crackling sound is a loose connection and needs to be fixed before a fire starts.
 
  #6  
Old 08-18-17, 02:15 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 59,638
Received 1,167 Votes on 1,082 Posts
The common on one switch will be power in/hot and power out/load on the other switch.
Only the common wires are important on the switch. C must be swapped for C. The travelers can be connected in either direction.

Since you have hot on the three wires in the three wire cable from the switching line... it sounds like you have an open neutral.

It's pretty rare for a switch to go bad and even rarer to replace it and have a new switch that's bad.

With a three way system.... usually the two travelers are the same color. You could pull out both switches. Positively ID the C wire at each end. Disconnect both switches. Connect the C wire at both ends to the same color traveler. There should be power at both ends on these connections when checked to ground. This should bring the lights on. If not... the neutral is missing.
 
  #7  
Old 08-18-17, 03:18 PM
B
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 5
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
PJmax

Based on your suggestion, I think I found the issue:

I unhooked both switches and turned breaker back on. On both switch locations, there is a hot wire. I was only expecting a hot wire on one location.
 
  #8  
Old 08-23-17, 02:58 PM
B
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 5
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Still testing on this. I feel either the wiring or the recessed lighting is causing the issue. Let me explain how I am testing this now.

With all lights out of the socket, I test the switches. The one with the 120v from the box shows the common wire hot and one of the travelers hot. That is what I expect.

On the second switch, the only hot is one traveler.

However, when I plug a light into any socket (there are 6 of them), the second switch shows hot on all 3 wires, even though power should only be flowing to the one traveler wire.

I would understand if one socket caused this, but all of them? Am I missing something in my understanding of how this wiring is done?
 
  #9  
Old 08-23-17, 03:09 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 59,638
Received 1,167 Votes on 1,082 Posts
On the second switch, the only hot is one traveler.
Yes.... and one of the traveler screws on the switch should also be hot.
If it is not... it's not getting thru the switch.
 
  #10  
Old 08-23-17, 03:15 PM
B
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: USA
Posts: 5
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Correct.

Without a bulb in, on second switch, only hot wire was one traveler (same as on other).

With a bulb in, the common (load) on second switch is now hot as well as both travelers. With both switches in the same position, I should expect only the one traveler on the second switch to be hot, not all three.

The curious thing to me is this: 6 can lights, and a single bulb in any of them does this. I would expect this from one, but not from any/all. I'm open to thoughts on how to move forward, but sure seems like a bigger wiring issue.
 
Reply
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: